Out of the Memory Box

Pinhole Camera Photography

Out of the Memory Box explores a place and time that was green and sunny; my childhood backyard before my father became ill with bipolar disorder. 

In my small, rectangular, adult backyard, I recreated the backyard of my youth by photographing a rubber duck, beachball, red wagon, tricycle, and other aged objects. The camera for this adventure was a six-sided cardboard hatbox converted into a pinhole camera. 

Unlike previous projects which explored the dark corners of dark spaces, the strange-looking “box camera” became the portal through which happy memories and comforting feelings emerged. Happy memories of my sister and I playing in the pool, my mother hanging the laundry on a clothesline, my father cutting the lawn in the fading sunlight; comforting feelings of safety, belonging, and love.

Over time, darker images and memories emerged. I initially rejected them, but eventually, I came to accept them and see them from an adult perspective. Now, most of the darker images do not evoke my father’s illness, but more are reminders of every day, short-lived ordeals of childhood; skinned knees after falling off a bike, breaking a neighbor’s window with a baseball, and missing out on a family bar-b-q.  

Out of the Memory Box is about the past, but it is also about the present. Because of the project’s length (7 years), Out of the Memory Box accumulated many creative rules and expectations. For example, I expected to complete the project in one summer (it spanned seven summers) and envisioned rigidly following my original creative parameters. I also expected that there would be a happy ending in the visual narrative. However, before I could find my way to completing the project, I needed to find my way out of these boxes of unhelpful expectations. The simple act of changing these and other expectations proved to be one of the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of Out of the Memory Box

Before - Jay Sullivan
Before - Jay Sullivan
Before - Jay Sullivan